Afghanistan to release 2,000 Taliban prisoners as 'goodwill gesture'

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani began a process Sunday to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture after the insurgents proposed a surprise cease-fire during the Eid holiday.

The cease-fire appeared to hold as there were no reports of fighting between the insurgents and Afghan forces by the end of the first day on Sunday.

Ghani also said the government was ready to hold peace talks with the Taliban after accepting their offer of a three-day truce over the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The decision to release the prisoners was a "goodwill gesture" and was taken "to ensure success of the peace process," Ghani's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.

The prisoner swap is seen as a confidence-building move ahead of long-awaited peace talks between the government and Taliban.

Before Sunday's announcement, Kabul had already released about 1,000 Taliban inmates while the insurgents had freed roughly 300 members of the Afghan security forces.

The insurgents said they were committed to freeing prisoners, but reminded Kabul that the deal was to "release 5,000" of their members as agreed with the US in Doha.

"This process should be completed in order to remove hurdles in the way of commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations," a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said on Twitter.

Ghani said a government delegation was "ready to immediately start the peace talks" with the insurgents.

                                                 

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